On the margins of the UN's battle to stop the virus pandemic

On the margins of the UN's battle to stop the virus pandemic

The U.N. General Assembly was not primarily focused on the coronavirus epidemic, although discussions about it were still taking place.

On the margins of the UN's battle to stop the virus pandemic
Tuesday, September 20, 2022, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 77th session of the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) 📷 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

THE UNITED NATIONS (AP) During this year's United Nations General Assembly, one subject felt like an afterthought amid four days of furious speeches about war, climate change, and the threat of nuclear weapons: the coronavirus epidemic.

Masks were frequently pulled below chins — or not worn at all — and any reference of COVID-19 by global leaders was usually at the conclusion of a long list of complaints.

On the outskirts of the annual convention, however, the epidemic was still a topic of discussion.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, and others to address fair access to COVID vaccinations, testing, and treatments.

Earlier that day, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield joined leaders from across the world to celebrate the accomplishments made in combating COVID-19, including the United States' provision of more than 620 million vaccine doses to 116 countries and economies. She did, however, underline that there is still more work to be done.

Tedros highlighted that the global death toll is nearing its lowest since the epidemic began, and that two-thirds of the world's population is immunized. However, the hopeful signals disguise a significant discrepancy between rich and poor countries.

In low-income nations, for example, just 19% of individuals are completely immunized, compared to 75% in high-income countries. In low-income nations, just 35% of health-care personnel and 31% of elderly people are completely vaccinated and boosted.

According to Guterres, the key to reducing such gaps is to combat vaccination disinformation and overcome skepticism, while simultaneously improving testing to exclude the possibility of new strains. The globe also need pandemic early warning systems and a well-paid and well-supplied staff in the health care industry.

"Let's get this thing done, "According to Guterres. "Let us put an end to this plague once and for all."

According to Thomas-Greenfield, COVID-19 treatment should be integrated into everyday services rather than being limited to emergency rooms.

She described three new initiatives: a pilot program to be introduced in 10 countries to assist individuals in receiving antiviral medications and COVID-19 screenings; a $50 million commitment from the United States to improve access to medical oxygen crucial for treating patients with severe cases; and a global clearinghouse to improve the resilience, efficiency, and equity of medical supply chains.

Few would contest that things have gotten better; in fact, U.S. President Joe Biden recently said that the epidemic was ended before retracting his statement; yet, no one on Thursday was prepared to declare the problem over.

When the finish line is in sight, a marathon runner "does not stop. A marathon runner runs harder to get to the end," Tedros said.

More coverage of the United Nations General Assembly can be found at united nations-general assembly.

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